Last night, the community of Brentwood, California approved AT&T’s planned construction of a cell phone tower in a self storage facility in a commercial park. The base of the tower will be located inside a storage unit at TownCentre Self Storage, and the top of the tower will be disguised as a fake pine tree. The choice to put the tower inside a self storage unit and to make it look like a pine tree were meant to allay concerns that some neighboring business owners had about the aesthetic appearance of the tower.
Some business owners also raised the question of possible health effects related to working so close to the cell phone tower. Neighbors were concerned about electromagnetic radiation emanating from the tower. Property owner Donald Kurgan, who owns a commercial building located 110 feet from the site of the proposed tower, spoke at last night’s City Council meeting, argued that the tree would not look natural, would be ugly, and would scare tenants away from his building. One of Kurgan’s tenants is a day care provider who has said that she will move to a new location rather than expose children to EMF radiation. Whether or not the fears of EMF radiation are scientifically valid, Kurgan argued that those fears would cause him to lose business.
The Brentwood City Council, however, was more convinced by arguments that the cell phone tower would provide a service to the community and would increase coverage for 911 calls from cell phones. They also heard arguments that the tower would be co-locatable — meaning that other cell phone service providers, not just AT&T, could use the tower. Having a co-locatable tower means that Brentwood need not have as many cell phone towers as it would have if it had to approve a tower for each cell phone service provider in the area. The City Council also noted that AT&T had agreed to have an engineer monitor the EMF transmissions from the tower, measuring them every two years to ensure that they are still in compliance with federal regulations.
Brentwood has a history of taking a close look at cell phone towers. In 2008, the city council considered the possibility of building a cell phone tower near a local nursery. That pole was also constructed by AT&T, and was camouflaged to look like a redwood tree. In the end, it was constructed next to Acorn Self Storage, on Lone Tree Way. The city continues to monitor the Lone Tree Way cell phone tower, however, because occasionally AT&T requests a permit to add additional transmitting materials near the top (the city considered such a permit in 2009, for example).
The city has to approve the construction of cell phone towers because their height exceeds the statutory height limitation for poles and antennas mounted on or by businesses in the area. A cell phone tower may be as much as 100 feet tall, while Brentwood’s zoning regulations only allow businesses to erect structures that are 35 feet tall or shorter. The cell phone tower/tree that was approved last night, however, will only be 78 feet tall.
Brentwood puts media files of its city council meetings on the Internet. You can see the discussion of the cell phone tower at the City Council webpage.